The gods must be CRAAAAZZZYYY!!!!

I knew something weird was going on when the clouds turned black at about 5.30 pm during rush hour traffic in Accra. I was excited to be going home and it was just before the Ghana versus Cote d’ Ivoire game which was due to start at 6.30 pm local time. All of a sudden, harmattan rain began to pour down. Ghanaians, including myself refused to heed the warning of the gods that it was going to be a rough night.

Boy, was it rough!!! Cote d’ Ivoire taught the inexperienced Black Stars a soccer lesson yesterday making the rainy day even rainier with Ghanaian tears. 

The coach went with a lineup that featured as many as four of our U-20 players (Dede Ayew, Agyemang Badu, Samuel Inkoom, Opoku Agyemang) and three more non-regulars in Isaac Vorsah, Moussa Narry and Rahim Ayew. That was just a bridge too far for the Stars. The newcomers gave their all with kudos going out especially to Agyemang Badu, Vorsah, Rahim Ayew and Opoku Agyemang (who frustrated Eboue into getting a red card).

It was 1-0 at half time as a defense splitting pass by Yaya Toure left R. Ayew flat footed. Salomon Kalou slipped behind the defense and fed the man I saw in my nightmares the night before Gervinho with a simple tap in. The Stars raised their game in the second half as Essien and Asamoah Gyan came on. Twas all for naught. Ghana edged the early part of the half but their fight was taken away from them when Cote d’ Ivoire scored on a free kick. It was game over at that point and when the Ivorians went up 3-0 it was adding insult to injury. Ghana pulled one back with what was a generous penalty. Final Score 3-1. Humbling result.

 This has earth shattering implications. For us to qualify to the next round, we must win against the Burkinabes which as they showed against Cote d’ Ivoire will be no easy task.

Time for Action!!!

 

Dede Ayew says the Stars are eveready like the battery!

 

Black Stars fans, what can one possibly say about this day? I woke up seeing stars. Black stars to be exact. The radio magically came on and continued this Stars fest by filling my ears with talk on the Black Stars. Will Essien start? Who will line up against the Ivorians? What will the final score be? Well, this is all talk and tonight the action will go down. Ghana vs Ivory Coast is probably the most anticipated game so far this Nations cup as both teams are by virtue of qualifying for the world cup and their past history, two of the continent’s top teams. 

Add to that the fact that they are neighboring countries and you see that there is a certain,  should i say rivalry. Oh and the anglophone versus francophone thing. And Essien and Drogba, teammates facing each other. A young team in Ghana versus a very experienced Ivorian team. Les elephants contre the Stars? The subplots are endless. And the excitement and nerves are still rising and will be on a high by game time. Speaking of nerves, I just had a panic attack thinking of Gervinho!!! Oh crap, is that Drogba’s foot in my chest? Better my chest than on the ball on the way to a goal. Sigh. 

But the main thing may be that players like Dede Ayew are ready to match their Ivorian counterparts. Essien, who came into camp not too long says this is a tournament for the underdogs. But other fans are waaaayyyyyy more eloquent than me in giving reasons why the Stars will win. Papa Nii of a Ghanaian show, Taxi driver, was speaking on citi fm and he says ” There’s going to be great telepathy and extrepidation of nature which when quotentised will really oscillate and cause an apologetic and anthropological paralysation.”

I couldn’t possibly top that for eloquence. But I dare you out there to top my predicted line up which is below. And also my prediction. My brain says 1-1 and my heart says 2-1. So please give heart and brain predictions. 

My starting line up is: 

1. Richard Kings(t)on

2. Samuel Inkoom (right back)

3. Harrison Afful (left back)

4. Eric Addo 

5. Lee Addy

6. Michael Essien

7. Agyemang Badu

8. Kwadwo Asamoah

9. Asamoah Gyan

10. Matthew Amoah

11. Dede Ayew

How about them super chickens?

 

Fly Chicken, Fly!

 

I am not sure what to say about my brethren the Super Chickens. They failed to soar yesterday and the pharoes took them out in typical Egyptian fashion: solid, compact and disciplined play. As frustrated as I was watching the Nigerians I can’t imagine how infuriating it was for Nigerians. Actually, I can. They are probably ten times angrier. In the other game the mighty squirrels’ movements were clipped in slightly controversial fashion by the good old mamba. You fall asleep, the mamba strikes. 

I can’t say how happy I am that the games have begun. The African game is always guaranteed goals and if there’s one thing that can ignite a competition it is goals. 19 in 5 matches?

In Black Stars news, joy fm reported yesterday that Anthony Annan, our diminutive but tough midfielder has been ruled out with a hamstring injury for our game against Cote d’ Ivoire. That’s a bit of a blow to our prospects but if Emmanuel Agyemang Badu’s performance at the U-20 championships were anything to go by then we may be able to swap one scrappy fighter for another. The Stars will need all the fight they can muster in what has suddenly become a much trickier group. One win and three points should be enough to qualify raising the stakes for our game against the Ivorians.

My prediction is it will be a draw. 

For that to happen however, the Stars will need to show some swagger.

Nampenda Black Stars

 

... and the Black Stars

 

I am in a musical mood this morning. And I am expressing my love for my Black Stars with this song (Chale the song is so sweet it had to find a way into the blog). All this love in spite of their failure to entertain yesterday evening. Not their fault. Their Togolese opponents were back home mourning the dead. So like a sad end to a love story, Togo is finally, officially no more

But considering what has been going on in the tournament so far, Essien and his boys may have to thank their stars. Angola has been upset city and given the emotion that would have been present in the Togolese camp Ghana may have been shocked. Add to that Essien apparently missing his flight and really we may have been saved the trauma of being Malawied. 

And the group that carried the attack on Togo now says that no other country is in danger of being attacked. And as for his explanation that they didn’t mean to attack civilians, I am not exactly buying it. C’mon man!!!

Is it just me or does drama follow the Togolese to these international competitions. At the 2008 world cup they threatened to embarass us with all this bonus row talk. Now, they decide to take a bus and they get shot at. And it appears it always comes down to money. But anyways, I am officially closing the chapter on the Togolese. Until they qualify the next time of course. At some point we all gotta move on. 

A few quick notes. 

Can you believe that the French club Nice lost eleven players to the Nations Cup? Wow.

What’s up with all the nipple showing EX-rated puma jerseys on show? Cover up boys.

Some boys are dangerous and this boy Gervinho is one of them. Clearly Drogba is Cote d’ Ivoire’s talisman but this guy with a Brazilian-sounding name they’ve imported is something else. The sitter he set up for Kone in the second half was a great example of his skills.  

Speaking of dangerous. Was it me or did Dagano of Burkina Faso look like he was seven feet two inches and who on Ghana’s squad is going to mark him? Man, I am sweating thinking of Jonathan Mensah or Eric Addo handling him. 

My two cents. Any thoughts?

Angola starts the show

 

The show begins

 

A journey of a cup of nations begins with an opening ceremony. And what a ceremony it was. By many accounts it was close to rivaling Beijing. Ok, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration because nothing can top the bird’s nest and everything the Chinese did. Nevertheless, given the news of the past few days it helped put some gloss back on the tournament and the organizers must be pleased to be finally focusing on the event. And as if the spectacle wasn’t enough, the game turned from what seemed until the last ten minutes to be a certain victory for the hosts to a shocking collapse but thrilling end for us neutrals. 

You gotta love sports. Now, we wait for the Black Stars’ first match. I do have to say that the wait for the Black Stars’ first match will kill me. Our first match is now going to be on Friday against Cote d’ Ivoire. That means a whole week and three days would have passed before playing in a competitive match. Depending on how we come out and play it could be a case of being well rested and well prepared or it could be that we are rusty from all the idleness. Let’s hope it is the former. 

Of course, the events of the last few days also means that espionage has been kept to a minimum. It could never justify the loss of life and the near disruption of Africa’s showcase event but I am just saying. 

So on to the next one? I can’t wait to see the Algeria- Malawi game. I think if Malawi can keep their nerves and keep it goalless or even score in the first half they will shock some people. I think Cote d’ Ivoire is going to win against Burkina Faso which will make our match against Cote d’ Ivoire that much more critical.

Given the eight-goal thriller in the opener, who is willing to bet against the goal scoring record set in Ghana being broken? You folks remember that the 2008 edition of the cup produced the most number of goals in the tournament’s history.

Breaking news. Oooohhhhhhhhh ah!!! These Togolese too love more drama than Shirley Frimpong Manso’s movies. At this point I find it difficult that there’s a bit of politics involved in the decision making. It smacks of Togo trying to shift some of the blame to some other authority for their initial decision to travel by road. That’s waaaaayyyyyyy above my black stars fan pay grade though.

Tis the day

 

Who takes the cup?

 

This has already been a weird nations cup. First there was very little excitement and then as the day drew closer and I think more and more talk was generating the energy, the ambush on the Togolese team occurred. And depending on what you read, they are going to honor their fallen comrades. Or they are too traumatised to continue

That sense of confusion has extended to the view from European football. Clearly, there are some clubs that are being as typically opportunistic as the European crusader back in the day. As in, we’ll teach you our religion while we loot and plunder you type opportunism. Of course, just as soon as I say that the Arse’s manager and Moyes’ just destroys the stereotype. Good for them. 

Of course, there’s this other small matter of how it affects the World Cup. RUBBISH!!! I couldn’t have said it better than Danny Jordaan though.  How quickly things change these days as this article suggests. Of course, we may not be talking about all of this if Cabinda hadn’t been chosen as a venue for the cup. Too late now.

In any case, it doesn’t feel appropriate to be jumping up the rooftops in anticipation of the start of the tournament. A few days of games though may put this episode on the backburner. Somewhat. 

I had planned to be in town watching this game on the big screen in Osu but I think I will now wait to see watch it in Ghana’s first game either against Togo tomorrow or against Cote d’Ivoire on Friday. Where are y’all watching the games?

Are we safe?

So much is going on around the cup and I don’t know where to start. Togo’s players have been attacked at the Congo-Angola border as they were making their way to Cabinda for the tournament. A couple of players were injured and it was clearly a harrowing experience for all involved. There’s mention made that Togo could pull out of the tourney which would mean Ghana would only play two matches. That would be a bummer. 

Oh and if you didn’t know Cabinda was a place I don’t blame you. If you look closely on the map it’s in no man’s land but that region is probably paying for the hosting of the tournament as it is oil-rich. For a guide to the other venues, check this out

In other news, Didier Drogba won the 2009 BBC African footballer of the year award. I guess it was fitting but I thought Michael Essien had a great season last year for Chelsea. In fact, Eto’o must have had a more successful season winning the Euro championships with Barcelona. Oh well, it’s a people’s award as the fans are the ones that vote so I can’t even be mad.

Bison update

 

The Bison is still at large and not in camp?

 

Ah! Now I am confused. A few days ago, a report said Michael Essien had joined the team. And now, he won’t join them until early next week? Our captain? What in the world is going on. The latest is that he is now waiting for a visa? Aka, the bison is in the wild of London’s concrete jungle still. Come on man? If there was one guy they should have processed a visa for, like I don’t know, right after CAN 2008, it should have been Essien. But let’s not panic. I just hope Chelsea are not using some Russian mafia tactics to keep our boy out. My sources are out on this and after our investigations I will confirm.

But it raises some questions like who is going to captain the side in the first game if he doesn’t show up? Also, if he hasn’t fully recovered should we even be risking him in a tournament? I would say place him in a cryogenic facility and produce him in June, just in time for the football mundial.

Back to the captain question though. Hmmm, let me think. Would Eric Addo be the next logical person? That would be interesting. Or maybe Kwadwo Asamoah? Meanwhile here’s a list of our players and their jersey numbers. Get to know your players and if the numbers make you remember former players let us know.

Oh, I know. I saw number 2 and thought of Frank Amankwa, that short guy. I saw 11 and thought C. K. Akonnor, that skinny, tall and lanky  guy with a deadly left foot. Who could forget the number 9 and Yeboah. 

Any contributions?

Memories Lane

 

Taking a trip down memory lane

 

So with two days to go and in light of my nostalgia about Abedi Pele I thought ah: so me kuraa what are my favorite African Cup of Nations memories? And you know, I am a pretty young guy so mine are a bit limited compared to some of you old geezers out there. Five is a nice round number and I have been taught when making lists to keep it to three or five. Ever the maximalist (is that even a word? opposite of minimalist), I have gone with five.

Also, my bad memory means this is off the top of my noggin. But I reserve the right to refresh my memory and update my list as yours trickle in.  Also, I had to give you the name of the last Ghanaian top scorer. His name was George Alhassan, graduate of 1982 Black Stars’ campaign. I mean what could have been sweeter than 1982? So great it was that it is where my list begins. 

1. Ghana lifting the cup in 1982 (I was a year old so my eyesight and recognition wasn’t so good but I have heard)

2. Abedi Pele’s wonder goal against Congo ten years later (I know some of you are saying, “my man, there are other Ghanaian players than Abedi oh.” Whatever! Show me.)

3. In 1992, semi-finals, we put pepper in Nigeria’s eyes and we scored them. That man again was the center of a bittersweet moment. And when he was carried on some fans’ shoulders in tears. Man, when will I be so good at something that I will be carried shoulder high. I digress. 

4. I enjoyed watching Rabah Madjer and Cherif al Oudjani of Algeria destroy Africa in 1990. (Sorry Black Stars for the heresy). 

5. Zambia’s reconstituted team getting to the Nations Cup final in 1994 (Some people remember where they were when Kennedy got shot, I remember where I was when the Zambian plane crashed). 

By the way, this guy is more interested in going back to the future. He, like everyone else is calling Ivory Coast the eventual winners (Look out for the dark horses section too). They don’t know that at night, the Elephant looks up in the sky to the Star. Let them keep drinking the kool-aid (aka bisap).

Ahhhh, it’s the Venue eh!

 

You need a few of these to enjoy CAN 2010. C'est cher

 

So I was just listening to a Beeb report about Angola being a very expensive place. Apparently, one room in a recently-opened four star hotel will cost $600 a night during the competition. I mean on a regular day it would cost $300 a night so it’s not as if it was going to be cheap anyways. But it fits in with some scribes’ assessment of the costs involved with traveling to Angola. 

At the end of the day though, it may be down to the fans’ attitudes. In that regard, it looks like the not being excited prior to the tournament disease is catching on across the continent. Ok, maybe an exaggeration but Ivorian and Ghanaian fans may share more than a border at this time.

But while it’s good to get to know our neighbor’s thoughts and feelings, it may be even better to learn their capabilities. What’s that they say about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?